Yesterday the SPFL ended their calls for an investigation into the running of Scottish football, at the level of the SFA.
I said it was gutless. I said it was cowardly. I compared it to playing “pass the parcel” with an armed bomb. The way the two associations are throwing this back and forth to one another is quite pathetic. The way the media is handling it is worse.
The media could have been allies in the effort to get this into the mainstream.
They could have supported us, the fans. Instead, save for a few editorials, many of which sat on the fence or went out of their way to demand that Rangers weren’t part of the inquiry – rendering it utterly moot – they said nothing or supported the SFA.
In the future, when Scottish football fans look back on this period, they will be horrified by what was allowed to go on and they will not believe that the media sat back and allowed the game to be run like this. The evidence is there for any who want to look at it; I am astounded that there isn’t a single journalist here who doesn’t see the value in covering this story in detail. The definitive book about this series of events will be the Scottish sport bestseller to outdo them all.
I am going to go over just five of the areas which need examined by an independent review into these matters; there are many, many others.
HRMC informed the SFA in 2009 that they had obtained evidence, during a search of Ibrox in relation to the Stevens Inquiry, that indicated Rangers’ involvement in a vast tax scam which had cost the Exchequer tens of millions of pounds. This was revealed in detailed documents published online recently by RTC, and which constituted just some of the evidence that was heard at the Supreme Court during the big tax case appeal.
HMRC knew of the existence of the side letters.
They would have informed the SFA of those, as they were a major part of the Revenue’s case against the club. They asked the SFA for assistance, which presumably includes a demand to turn over whatever documents they had in relation to what the Ibrox club was up to.
Did the SFA do so? If they didn’t they helped Rangers to keep the EBT scheme under wraps. But we know for a fact what the governing body didn’t do; which was inform the club that it was opening an immediate case against them for the illegal registration of players.
And why is that important? Well for two very big reasons.
The first of these is simple enough; they allowed the club to keep on defrauding the tax man.
Because Rangers continued using EBT’s well into 2010.
But there’s another reason, and this one is deadly to the so-called regulators; when Sandy Bryson got up at the Lord Nimmo Smith inquiry and gave his shocking, rule-breaking, mind-bending reasons why Rangers’ offences didn’t come with automatic defeats in all the games where players with EBT’s played, part of the SFA’s defence of the club was that the registrations were not invalid because no-one knew they weren’t at the time … even if you believe that arrant nonsense, that explanation certainly does not stand up in light of the SFA’s knowledge of side letters in 2009 and on into the following year.
It means that they knew players were improperly registered for the 2008-09 season, and let that continue into the 2009-10 campaign and for all we know into the 2010-11 one … and what do these seasons have in common? Walter Smith was at Ibrox, after walking out of his job as national coach – for which the club paid no compensation – and they won three titles in a row. The legitimacy of all three of those titles is dubious at the very least.
Perhaps the media just doesn’t like the idea of tearing down Walter’s pedestal, but there has to be someone out there with a yard of guts who gets how serious this is?
The SFA has opened an investigation into this affair; I predict that will go exactly nowhere and result in exactly no sanction.
Who is there to sanction?
The club that did it is dead and gone, and although the SFA maintains the fiction the current Ibrox incumbents are the same team I doubt that will translate into punishing them.
It is a ludicrous undertaking, and the final “verdict” in it will drive a wrecking ball through the Survival Lie, not that anyone will pay a blind bit of notice to that. This issue will not go away just because they conduct a sham investigation.
For one thing, that investigation seeks to blame the club. Celtic has known for a while that this was the SFA’s line; they do not believe it represents the facts.
All of this is being palmed off as the fault of Craig Whyte and Craig Whyte alone; Celtic believes there are other culprits, that the SFA knew more than they’ve let on, and that they gave the club a license anyway.
And this makes an odd kind of sense, when you consider that the SFA’s relationship with HMRC is one sided at best. If you accept the governing body played a role in helping the club conceal its tax scam – as you have to conclude in the absence of any official investigation about wrongful registration of players prior to 2012 – then you know their attitude towards the tax organisation is cavalier at best and at worst outright corrupt and you have to be willing to accept that they would have overlooked another.
Rangers very survival depended on European income; I cannot say that enough times.
As we will see, Craig Whyte went to them immediately when the club was knocked out of Europe twice in a month to tell them that administration was certain and that he planned to dilute the whole thing. If, in 2011, they had contacted Whyte and asked him about the licensing issue and he told them without one the club would have gone under, what do you think they would have done? Refused it? Not in this lifetime. Not based on what we know.
Celtic knows something dodgy happened here. When Regan tried to suggest that Celtic was happy with their interpretation of events, in the famous exchange of letters between the club and the governing body, Peter Lawwell was quick to shoot that down … we’ve never believed that situation was handled right, and all credit to the club and to the group of shareholders who got hold of this like a terrier shaking a rat and never let it go.
There’s more than meets the eye to this one, for sure.
There is little doubt that by the time Craig Whyte took over at Ibrox that the SFA and others were fully aware that he was not a fit and proper person to be in charge of a Scottish club. The evidence was there for anyone who wanted to see it.
The Internet Bampots had found a ton of it, and the BBC was already sniffing around more.
The Rangers board had a dossier on him. Did they offer it during the fit and proper person examination? Of course not, but the club had enough people working with and at the SFA that I am convinced they weren’t completely in the dark. The BBC found an alarming number of things, and the Rangers takeover board was not far behind them, even if both were lagging miles behind the Internet Bampots and what they had discovered.
In fact, even after the BBC announced its findings it took the SFA an inordinate amount of time to actually get on with opening a case against him. There were good reasons why they didn’t do so at once; they were assisting Craig Whyte with a very specific project.
The liquidation of Rangers.
Right from the start, from the moment he took over, Whyte knew two things about Rangers; first was that their guilt in the Big Tax Case was established beyond a reasonable doubt and that years of legal troubles were in front of them.
He also knew that one bad year in Europe had the potential to put them in immediate administration.
Whyte knew the only way to cut the wage bill, drastically, and leave the legacy issue of the tax case behind was to liquidate the club and bring it back to life as a NewCo. In order to get what he wanted out of that scenario he knew something else; he knew that he would need the SFA and the SPFL to lend him a helping hand.
There is ample documentation online which proves this beyond all shadow of a doubt.
The SFA and the SPL were supporting Whyte from an early stage; in fact, he alleges he made them fully aware in October 2011.
You can choose to believe Whyte or not … but their conduct after the fact, including public statements from the likes of Regan and Doncaster who made it clear they believed the club was “too big to fail” and would do whatever they could to see that a NewCo played in the top flight no matter what that mean for creditors and the taxpayer, leave little room for doubt. Had they been aware, would they have refused to back him?
When we look back on that period we can be in no doubt that Whyte would have found them easy to deal with and perfectly pliable, as indeed he claims they were when he met them in London in October 2011.
That was Doncaster and the SPFL, but Ralph Topping was there and Regan and Ogilvie had their own wee meeting with him at the Hotel du Vin in December the same year. The SFA were willing participants in Whyte’s decision to defraud creditors and the tax payer. Had they done nothing that would have been bad enough, but ample evidence suggests they were with him all the way and even jeopardised the commercial standing of the game in order to see their scam went off successfully.
I’d have thought the media would have been interested in that.
Perhaps the most incredible moment in this whole series of scandals came when Craig Whyte produced taped evidence that proved he had been a partner with Charles Green right from the start. The recordings, which Whyte gave to a national newspaper, were definitive.
No less damning was Charles Green’s own confession to The Sun, where he freely admitted scamming Craig Whyte and Sevco 5088 in order to get his hands of the assets of OldCo Rangers.
This is one of the most spectacular sub-plots you could conceive of; Hollywood writers would struggle to do justice to this most incredible of twists.
I still believe this will end up in court; Whyte has got a team of lawyers working on the case, and on the surface of it there’s little doubt at all that he’s got one. The original agreement Duff and Phelps had was with a company called Sevco 5088, the company Whyte and Green conceived of together. Yet Charlie boy ended up sitting atop a company called Sevco Scotland Limited, one of the signatories to the Five Way Agreement.
And it has long been believed that the SFA would do literally anything to protect this notorious document, including looking the other way on allegations that they had been at the centre of a fraud. Whyte’s allegations were amongst the most serious ever levelled in the history of the game here; the SFA’s response was criminally negligent at best.
They allowed Rangers – Charles Green’s own board – to investigate these claims itself, and pass the results onto them.
And so was born the Pinsent Mason report, answering a question that had nothing to do with the central allegation and which the SFA nodded, said thanks, accepted and put on a shelf as if this was all perfectly normal.
Which is most certainly wasn’t.
Clubs across the country have had persons kicked off boards or permission denied to join them.
Not at Ibrox.
Only Whyte has ever been definitively banned from holding office at a Scottish football club and that came when the SFA could no longer legitimately do otherwise and he had already led them to the edge of the abyss.
Since then, Dave King, Paul Murray and Alastair Johnson have all been admitted to the board in spite of not one of them meeting the qualifying criteria.
King’s own crimes are known and notorious; he stands convicted of hundreds of offences under South African law which could have seen him imprisoned for more than 80 years. Instead he paid one of the largest corporate tax evasion fines in the history of that country. An association already reeling from two high profile tax cheats at Ibrox should never have allowed this guy to become the third, but they looked the other way.
Paul Murray has some legitimacy in that he was removed from the Whyte board before things really started to get crazy over there, but from 2007 he was on the David Murray board which was up its knees in EBT’s and which was deliberately concealing documents from the SFA. He too should have been banned from ever holding a position with a Scottish club.
Alistair “No Surrender” Johnston has even less excuse and even less legitimacy. Not only was he on the board from 2004, he was its chairman from 2009 and would have been well aware of the EBT’s and whatever else was going on. He, like Murray, has always claimed ignorance; a quite shocking excuse, which would disqualify him from serving as a director in any other field. But in his case it’s worse because he was the chair of the “takeover board” which uncovered Craig Whyte’s murky past before he bought the club … and Johnston never disclosed that to anyone outside Ibrox, although the SFA had to rely on Whyte’s bona fides being established.
Johnston lied to them at the very least.
He too was allowed onto the board anyway.
And this is serious stuff, because the reason directors have to self-certify under the SFA’s ludicrous rule is that they have fiduciary and legal responsibilities both to the shareholders of the company’s they represent and to the legislative bodies which oversee them.
These three men fail by every measure.
This is a taster, just a sample of what we know and not a fraction of what we suspect.
These are five cases where there are serious questions about corporate governance at the very least and where the SFA has serious questions to answer.
Some of these are process issues; some are far more serious and could potentially lead to criminal charges.
It doesn’t get worse than that for a regulatory body.
I understand exactly why the SFA does not want that inquiry.
That organisation is protecting itself from external scrutiny and disgrace.
I do not understand why other clubs are content to live with these questions unanswered, and I certainly don’t understand why the media has never bothered to ask any of them.
These are major issues and I thought that was their job.